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BOB MOON: Time for a look at this week's history of business, and so we open the Marketplace Vault. Today we focus on the American labor movement.

STACEY VANEK-SMITH: The American Federation of Labor was founded in 1886. It was actually quite conservative for it's time.

Many labor groups were challenging the very concept of capitalism, but the AFL favored working within the system to improve labor conditions.

The approach worked and membership flourished. But in 1935, several unions split away and formed The Congress of Industrial Organizations.

The CIO favored craftsmen over the new breed of industrial worker, but as the years passed, that distinction became less relevant and the CIO craved the political clout of the much larger AFL.

So this week back in 1955, the AFL and CIO merged.

Unity reigned until last summer when nearly half of the AFL-CIO's members broke away to form the Change to Win Federation.

I'm Stacey Vanek-Smith.

Follow Stacey Vanek Smith at @svaneksmith